Crowdsourcing Journalistic Pressure On Congress To Get Answers About DHS's Treatment Of US Citizens At The Border

from the join-in dept

A few weeks ago, we were among many who were stunned to hear the story of On the Media producer Sarah Abdurrahman on the show about how she, her family, and a bunch of friends were all detained at the Canadian/American border by US Customs and Border Patrol agents (CBP) in two different locations. Every single one of the people detained were American citizens, and they were all treated absolutely horribly. Many had their electronics confiscated, and they were kept in freezing conditions without any explanation or recourse. One man was taken away from his family, put in a cell, and then his family was told that "an agency" was coming to deal with him, and they were told nothing further (only later to find out it was because of an unpaid ticket from years ago.

Perhaps even more horrifying than the treatment that they all went through was the complete lack of response to any and all journalistic questions about this. The DHS basically refused to return any calls and just ignored the matter. Abdurrahman was able to get one person from one of the border crossings on the phone at one point, and was basically told that he wasn't going to tell her anything. The sheer lack of accountability, concern or transparency was both shocking and depressing. Since then, On the Media has continued to try to get answers... and has come up empty. Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol appear to be taking the position that maybe if they ignore this situation it'll go away.

Not likely.

In talking their situation over with some experts, the OTM team was told that the way to deal with this was to get Congress to hold DHS accountable, and the way to do that is to have constituents of Representatives who have oversight authority concerning DHS to call their Reps and demand answers. OTM has tried calling their own Reps without much luck, so they've instead decided to crowdsource the journalistic effort. They're asking basically all of their listeners to put on their journalist hats, and to call Congress, asking some specific questions. If that listener happens to be represented by someone on a DHS oversight committee, it connects you directly to that office. Otherwise, they'll pick randomly from the list (of course, non-constituent calls tend to have less sway with Congress).

To make this even easier, they've built a tool to make it easy to call Congress, complete with the list of questions they'd like you to ask and a form to fill out the answers. Oh, and they've made the whole thing embeddable. It's at the bottom of this post. For those who think this doesn't have an impact, you should never underestimate the power of phone calls to your Representatives. They tend to have significantly more influence that most people expect.
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Filed Under: border patrol, cbp, crowdsourcing, customs and border patrol, homeland security, journalism, on the media

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2013 @ 4:06pm

    i sincerely hope this is successful but it should never have to happen in the first place! what the hell has happened to the United States of America government and the agencies that work under it's umbrella? are they so powerful, that they answer to no one? so powerful that even The President has no way of curbing the behavior? are those in charge of these agencies the ones running the nation, and The President just a 'front man'?
    the world has basically always thought of the USA and the people as being selfish, self interested, big headed and unconcerned about anything that doesn't affect them. instances like this dont help dispel that thinking in the slightest!
    it's about time there was a complete change of attitude from everywhere of authority. there is absolutely no need nor reason to treat people like 2nd class citizens, wherever they are from. all it does is cause the same attitude from others and we all know how we react to that, dont we! all hell breaks loose!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2013 @ 5:30pm

    1. Redacted
    2. Redacted
    3. Redacted

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jerry K, 28 Oct 2013 @ 7:02pm

    If you would do your research you would find that the name of the agency is Customs and Border PROTECTION, not Customs and Border Patrol. There is also something called Border Search Authority (Google it). Our country has the right to hold and search anyone crossing our border into or out of our country. Yes, some people get delayed but I doubt that anyone's rights were stomped on. Many times agents can't give out information for the protection of the US Citizen that is being asked about. There is the freedom of information act you can go through if you really want the info, calling the crossing won't do any good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Rapnel (profile), 28 Oct 2013 @ 7:23pm


    Are you mad? "Our country has the right.." To provide bullshit fucking hand on gun treatment just fucking because you're a citizen trying to get in? Are fucking kidding me right now? Our bullshit authority services are so fucking out of control it's insane. And you're all "We have the right blahdy blah blah because country." Fuck that, most of the people with guns and authority are dicks and can shoot you and then pull from every piece of available information on the planet to make the one they shot look bad.

    Fuck that. Fuck info. I want some god damn accountability for this bullshit. And give me little miss intel saying poo on spying on foreign leaders.. you know what fuck those leaders what about your god damned countrymen!? She needs to be fucking fired.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2013 @ 7:32pm


    Seems they are also detaining folk who never left the country, nowhere near the border ..... I suppose they are well within their purview according to your point of view.

    Papers please

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Oct 2013 @ 2:48am


    There is the freedom of information act you can go through if you really want the info, calling the crossing won't do any good.

    It's easier and faster to buy a black sheet of paper. That's what most FOIA requests get for an answer ;)

    Keep walking in your fantasy land. In the name of "protection", "for the children" and "terrorism" they are destroying your basic Constitutional rights. Enjoy your Gestapo if those fighting on your behalf can't contain the fascist tide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    anonymouse, 29 Oct 2013 @ 3:56am


    Sadly it is not about being stopped and searched it is about them believing they have the power to treat everyone like criminals, damn being detained and held in a cell for hours on end over a years old parking ticket, if that is acceptable to anyone then they need to rethink their life.

    And what about the family that was held on made up charges of assaulting officers when they asked questions, seriously everyone has the right to ask questions and everyone has the right to demand decent treatment.

    I for one have cancelled all my holidays to see my wife's family over the last 5 years becasue of the horror stories, not becasue i will be affected by the border control thugs but becasue i disagree with the way they are treating people.
    I wonder how many other people that have moved out of America or go on holidays there have decided not to until this mess is fixed and people regain their right to decency at border crossings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    missingxtension, 29 Oct 2013 @ 4:31am

    Re: jerry k

    Of you were Smart you would Google the thousands of people who have been detained and Just vanish from the system. There are people dying and violated and there is no way to get them help. There was an immigrant who dies in detention because he could not get his medicine. The DHS doesn't respond to the freedom of information act. If you think that it is something new, don't kid yourself. It has been an ongoing battle against the so called illegal immigrants and now that a so called legal citizen is caught up in the system. Now you want justice? You are not going to get it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Cloudsplitter, 29 Oct 2013 @ 5:46am

    Sheep Anyone

    The sheep always thinks the government works for them. That's way the love sheep dogs, wolves kill and eat sheep, but sheep herders also kill, shear, and eat
    sheep, and sheep dogs do not protect
    sheep from
    sheep herders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Bergman (profile), 29 Oct 2013 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re:

    If handing over a black sheet of paper in response to a mandatory disclosure demand is legal, then of course if the government issues a subpoena, handing over a black sheet of paper would be equally lawful, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 29 Oct 2013 @ 7:43am


    notwithstanding the fact that rapnel gave you a proper dressing down, your contribution is appreciated...

    i and anonymous are starting our own We The People's Database of Authoritarians, Politicians, and Korporadoes, and you are the first entry ! ! !

    i mean, if you have nothing to hide...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Oct 2013 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're forgetting the 'one law for me and another for thee' clause built in to things like that, 'acceptable responses' are much more stringent when you aren't the side that can throw people in jail for annoying you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anon, 29 Oct 2013 @ 10:35am

    Could be Worse

    At least they are US citizens, and will eventually get due process and allowed into the USA.

    The paranoid and "do it our way" BPA also enforces a weird policy that has gotten worrse since 9/11. While most other countries are only interested in whether you are a recent or habitual criminal, or if you have been convicted of a major serious crime - but the USA will ban almost anyone, based even on a juvenile conviction that happened long ago.

    We had a fellow where I worked in Canada who was suddenly barred due to a juvenile car theft conviction when he was 17 - he was barred at age 53 while on a business trip. Another guy, in his 30's was turned back while trying to go to Disneyland with his wife and two small kids. Apparently he was arrested at age 15 when his mother found drugs in his room and called the cops. Canada has started to retaliate by denying entry to anyone with a DUI record, since that's considered a felony in Canada.

    As I said, at least an American will eventually get in. A visitor who says anything except "yes, sir", or a visitor who is not totally cooperative, does not provide laptop or phone passwords, etc. - will be barred from entry at the whim of the agent.

    Google the Washington state border guard who got into a road rage incident with a visiting Canadian. He appeared to have a major hate on for visitors - after the incident, his justification why he should not be fired was that he was a stellar performer - he'd barred more Canadians from entry into Washington state than any other Border officer.

    The USA needs to put some sanity into the customs process... oh, and the rest of government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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